This is the next installment of the historical side of Jessica’s journey. In this post, I will wrap up the notes about the middle school years. At the end of middle school, she was 15 and would turn 16 in the summer. Only 6 more years to go!
The middle school years were really good. She had a loving staff and she continued to make good progress. She went out into the community several times a week for orientation & mobility (O&M) and an introduction into vocational activities.
For O&M, she would go to local stores with her O&M teacher and work on learning how to find specific items in the stores, working towards navigating the store independently. She would locate her item then practice her new money skills and pay for the item.
During that time, her O&M was a sweet, fluffy, older lady that, if I remember correctly, was not very fast on her feet. Over time, I started getting urgent instructions about how to handle Jess in parking lots. At one point, she was telling me almost in a panic, that I needed to always hold on to Jessica in parking lots.Hmm… I found this to be curious.
Of course, I always held on to her, but the O&M, who is teaching independent navigation skills, is trying to teach me how to be safer with Jess? There was something about the situation that seemed a little off. I don’t know what happened on one of their outings, but I can guess that Jess bolted from her in a parking lot, and she didn’t have the agility to catch her. That’s just a guess, I’ll never know. Shortly after that, we decided Jess didn’t need O&M out in the community at that time.
For the vocational side of things, her paraprofessional hooked her up with a local print shop. Some of the things she did when she went to work was fold paper menus and load copy machines with paper. She really enjoyed going to her work site.
Another significant event during middle school years was related to her shunt. I explained in The Fierce Advocate that she had a ventriculoparitoneal shunt placed when she was 7 months old. We were very fortunate that Jessica had gone so long without a complication because complications are very common within the first 10 years. At age 15 we went to a routine Birth Defects Clinic appointment and they discovered that the tubing to her shunt had pulled apart in her neck. Although they had originally put in enough extra tubing to accommodate growth, the tubing hadn’t grown with her. She had day surgery with an overnight stay and had the shunt replaced.
As the end of her Middle School years were nearing, we begged to stay one more year, however, it was time to move on. But move on to where? Because Jessica’s brother and sister were also in school, our preference was for Jess to stay in our school zone to keep all three close together (and headed to my alma mater.) The problem with that was for Jess to stay in our zone, the only class available to her would have been a behavior disorder class. My thoughts on that? Uhh… No thanks…
It was time to explore all of our options. After all, Jess had been making some academic gains, including reading. She had been saying for a while that she was ready to live on her own and wanted to move far far away. We explained to her about the possibility of living at a school away from home. She actually liked the idea! Did I like the idea? Is that something I would really do? We would soon find out.